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Police share harrowing story behind viral video of Texas father rescuing child from hot car

"The situation can quickly become dangerous."
/ Source: TODAY

Police shared new details behind a viral video showing a father rescuing his baby from a locked car amid a Texas heat wave.

The panicked father smashed the windshield window of his car, parked at an H-E-B fuel station in Harlingen, as temperatures that day hit 100 degrees. In the video, a baby is seen being passed through the windshield by a woman inside the vehicle.

Sergeant Larry Moore of the Harlingen Police Department tells that the July 19 incident was a close call.

"A male and female accidentally locked the keys in their car, with their infant child still in the vehicle," he says. "The father of the child can be seen in the video breaking the front windshield to make entry into the vehicle. Once the child was removed from the vehicle, EMS was on scene, and evaluated the child, who was fine."

According to Moore, the police do not know the identity of the infant's parents, as law enforcement was called after the child was freed. Moore says no charges were filed.

"I commend the father for his actions," says Moore. "As a parent, I can understand the urgency to remove his child quickly from the vehicle."

"I want to remind everyone to please slow down in their busy everyday lives, and check the backseat of their vehicles before locking the doors and walking away," he says. "A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child is left in a vehicle, that child’s temperature can rise quickly  and the situation can quickly become dangerous."

According to the national non-profit organization Kids and Car Safety, more than 1,050 children have died in hot cars in the United States since 1990. The organization reports that 55% of hot car deaths occur when kids are unknowingly left inside cars.

Founder Janette Fennell tells that she can only speculate about what happened in Texas, however, when children are unintentionally locked inside cars, it's frequently due to miscommunication.

"Mom and dad might assume the other has the key, pushes the lock button and walks away before realizing that the baby — and the keys — are still inside," she says, adding that many newer cars have functions that prevent locking when keys are inside.

It’s not clear from the video why the woman did not exit the vehicle by using the door handle.

Moore surmises that stress was an element.

"Stressful situations can induce anxiety," he says. "To them, removing the child through the window was the quickest way. Opening the door probably did not even cross their minds at that time."

Kids and Cars Safety director Amber Rollins says that if the couple had, for example, employed child safety locks on the rear doors, they may not have realized that exiting through the front was an option.

Child safety locks can backfire though, when for example, a parent momentarily leaves a child in the car to unload groceries and the child climbs into the front seat and presses the safety lock on the driver's side door, says Fennell.

Kids and Cars Safety suggests that drivers keep a spare key, either in a wallet or with a friend who is easily accessible. And remember these tips if a child is locked inside a car.

  • Call the police immediately. Law enforcement has tools to open cars quickly and will assist if a child needs medical attention. Or, call a locksmith company like Pop-A-Lock. The national service's "PAL Saves Kids" program rescues children from locked cars at no cost, at participating locations.
  • Break the window furthest from the child to prevent injury from glass shards.
  • When parking, avoid distractions like talking on the phone or texting.
  • If you're a bystander and encounter a child locked inside a car, get involved. Many states have "Good Samaritan" laws which generally exempt people from liability when helping in emergencies. Check out a list of state laws on Kids and Car Safety's website.

Acting fast is imperative. "Within the first 10 minutes of a shut car door, temperatures can spike as high as 20 degrees and continue rising," says Fennell. One "Consumer Reports" test found that darker colored cars and cars with darker interiors heat up a little faster than vehicles with lighter exteriors and interiors.

"Babies in these situations can die so quickly,” says Fennell. “Take heed of your surroundings."